SANTA'S COOKIES & COW NECTAR: Does milk really do a body good?

~By Sheila Garcia

Studies suggest perhaps not!  It sure is fun to dip those (organic and whole-food) cookies, though, right??

Depending on who you ask, a gallon of milk a day will either turn you into a muscle-bound machine or make you fat along with having some serious sinus congestion and acne. There’s a lot of information out there about milk consumption, and strong opinions on either side of whether it should feature in our diets, so deciding whether it fits into your nutrition plan and in what form can be pretty confusing.

Milk is thought to be a convenient source of calcium, vitamin D and phosphorus, three nutrients that are important for bone growth, so if you’re drinking milk to prevent bone fractures or to boost your overall health, you might want to go back to the fridge and opt for a yogurt or a slice of cheese instead.  The idea that consuming calcium-containing milk products is required to sustain healthy bones is quickly fading, as new research continues to unravel one of the food market’s biggest myths.

Humans are the only mammals to continue drinking milk past infancy, and that there are actually other sources of nutrition more sufficient for building healthy bones.

A recent study published in The British Medical Journal, one of the most influential general medicine journals in the world, adds to that theory, suggesting that milk consumption doesn’t prevent fractures that are often linked to osteoporosis, a condition involving brittle bones that affects 40 million Americans.  Researchers from Sweden, one of the countries that consume the most dairy per capita, examined the lifestyles and diets of more than 100,000 Swedes dating back as far as 1987 and tracking them until their death, or until Dec. 31, 2010.

The results showed that drinking milk did not reduce bone fractures, and those who drank the most milk where likely to die younger than their counterparts.  Not only did the study’s results dispel the myth that drinking milk helps prevent bone fractures, but the more milk women drank, the more fractures they had.

According to Robert Cohen, Executive Director of the Dairy Education Board and, milk consumption is to blame for a variety of health woes, including the following:

breast cancer

diabetes (both diabetes mellitus and juvenile diabetes)

kidney stones

acne / eczema

heart disease


multiple sclerosis


rheumatoid arthritis

Nowadays, milking cows are given antibiotics and most are also injected with a genetically engineered form of bovine growth hormone (rBGH). A man-made or synthetic hormone used to artificially increase milk production, rBGH also increases blood levels of the insulin-growth factor 1 (IGF-1) in those who drink it. And higher levels of IGF-1 are linked to several cancers.

Although milk is an excellent source of calcium, it isn’t the only one. Other good sources include:
cheese, especially hard cheeses
yogurt, especially Greek
calcium-fortified soy products
calcium fortified rice drinks
calcium-fortified cereals and orange juice
fish with edible bones, like canned salmon and sardines
some nuts (almonds, brazil nuts)
sesame seeds (and tahini)
dried fruit (figs, apricots)
dark green leafy vegetables (Asian greens like bok choy)
daily calcium requirements

If you still have a hankering for Santa’s go-to liquid of choice, choose organic to avoid the hormones, pesticides, chemicals, and synthetics that are in processed non-organic milk.  And maybe just try a dairy detox – take a holiday from milk every so often and see if it makes a difference in your skin, your digestive system, and how you feel overall.  Some other alternatives to cow’s milk:

soy milk
almond milk
rice milk
coconut milk
hemp milk

This year, share your healthy lifestyle legacy and as a special treat, leave out a little chocolate almond milk for Santa – not only will it help him be a little jollier, you’re sure to be on the Nice list from now on!

Some soureces for this article:
Uppsala University, the Karolinska Institute and the Swedish National Food Agency
British Medicine Journal
Natural Sciences Degree Program

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